an update on the cost of food growing

Radish (800x600)I’ve just been outside in the rain to harvest these lovely radishes to go in my stir fry.

I’m still keeping track of what I harvest and how much I spend on the garden – you can see my sums here.

As you can see, I’m not going to be rich any time soon. I’ve spent £95.41 since December, and harvested the equivalent of £17.88, leaving me with a deficit of £77.53. Hmm.

Still, all is not lost, as there’s some oddities in those totals that need explaining.

Spending money

We bought a second water butt – an investment of £25, but which won’t be repeated. In our small garden, two is quite sufficient to keep us going for the summer I reckon. We’ve also expanded our growing space by putting planters along the concrete path next to the house. Peter made one, and we already had a couple, but we’ve also spent £27 on another few.

And then there’s the compost to go in them. Our own compost bin is working really well, and I’ve harvested the equivalent of 4 large sacks (which cost £2 each from the council compost scheme). But that’s not fine enough to plant straight into (mostly because I’m not too discerning about what I put in it). Instead I fill the bulk of the pots with it, then top up with peat free potting compost, which I’ve spent £18 on.

The only other costs have been seeds initially, and a few replacement plants and slug defences after the little fiends munched through my seedlings.

Spinach (800x600)Cucumber growing (800x600)Still, we’re all set now with slug collars and copper round the greenhouse pots and I’m hoping that some of these plants will actually reach maturity. Fingers crossed!

Harvesting

In terms of harvest, we’re really only just getting into the right time of year (for those of us who didn’t plan ahead too much, that is). Throughout January and February my harvest was dried rosemary and compost. That’s it. In March our solitary remaining cabbage grew a few more leaves so we harvested those.

By April we were getting bits of salad, and a few overwintered radishes. Fresh herbs started growing, and, comparing with supermarket prices, I think they’re going to be the most lucrative thing I grow. In May I managed to grow a single tray of pea shoots – again expensive in supermarkets, and also very tasty.

Successes

Compost

The compost bin has been a huge success. I built it myself from an old door and some offcuts (I swore a LOT). It has two chambers, each with a lift up lid and removable front. This makes it very easy to quickly shift stuff from one side to the other, and to get the compost from the bottom. It’s surprising how quickly food and plant waste breaks down. I make no special effort to layer things, I just throw in our vegetable peelings, egg shells and cartons, tea bags, banana peelings etc at the end of each day, and add garden weeds, bits of soil from dead pot plants etc when it’s there. It’s never once been full, it rots down too quickly, even in the winter. There’s no smell, no flies – it’s right next to the pavement and as far as I know nobody even knows it’s there.

Fresh herbs

Sadly I managed to kill the rosemary, but not before harvesting enough dried rosemary to keep me going all year. At the minute we’ve got more chives than we’ll ever eat, lemon balm, sage, oregano and three different types of mint. I confess I do use dried herbs more than fresh, simply because they’re right there in the kitchen at the right time.

Radishes!

My new favourite thing to grow. The slugs don’t seem to have noticed them up in the planters yet. Shhhhhh.

Radishes growing (800x600)

They’ve raised an interesting point about costings though. When I harvested the overwintered ones back in April, the supermarket website was charging the equivalent of £2.09 per kg, meaning mine were worth a measly 2p. Today, small bags were the equivalent of £2.92, and they were also selling ‘specialist’ varieties (which looked like mine, tall and thin) were £6.96 per kg. Even more expensive were bunches with the leaves still attached at £7.41 per kg. Since that’s what I harvested, and I ate the leaves too, that’s what I’ve counted.

It’ll be interesting to see how the cost of supermarket veg changes throughout the year – not something I’ve really kept an eye on before.

Things I’ve learned

It’s important to outwit the slugs

I had to replace my tomato, cucumber and courgette plants when slugs munched through the seedlings in the greenhouse. This cost money, and meant all my hours of tending them were wasted. I’ve now got copper tape, special gel (although how good that’ll be in all this rain I don’t know) and slug collars, and so far there’s limited evidence of munching. I won’t be resorting to traditional slug pellets, but apparently there’s now organic ones that don’t harm other wildlife, so we’ll see. Be warned slugs.

Slug wars (800x600)I think what annoys me most is their lack of foresight. If they just munched a little bit, there would be plenty left to grow into a bigger plant! But no, they munch the whole thing, right down to the ground. Bit like me when left alone with a packet of biscuits really…

I need to be more organised

I’m not nearly organised enough yet when it comes to planting. I’m harvesting my radishes, but the next lot are weeks off being ready. Same with pea shoots – we had two days of delicious salads, and the next lot have only just started sprouting. I need to get into a regular routine of planting.

I didn’t plant much last autumn, and what I did plant didn’t survive, so I had no overwintered crop (except a tiny bit of cabbage). This year I’m planning plenty of kale at least.

Overall

For this time of year, given my lack of autumn planting, I don’t think we’re doing too badly. We’re eating something from the garden a few times a week, and I’m hopeful that in the future that will expand to whole meals, once the courgettes, cucumber and tomatoes are growing.

One thing I haven’t been counting, which I’m now slightly regretting, is sprouts. Sprouting is something I’ve tried in the past and failed miserably at. It seems I wasn’t rinsing enough, leading to unappetising sliminess.

I’ve sussed it now though – keep them on the kitchen sink and rinse morning, noon and night. Dried chick peas work well for me – I love them, and they’re ready in just three or four days. Brown lentils are even quicker, just two or three days.

I wasn’t counting them because they don’t grow in the garden, but they’re still making good use of the limited growing space here, so perhaps I should? I can’t find a supermarket online that does them so I can’t compare cost, but I bet they’re not cheap. If I count them I might eventually get into credit!

Are you eating much from the garden yet? What’s your favourite thing to harvest?

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2 Responses to an update on the cost of food growing

  1. Pingback: COST OF LIVING WISCONSIN 2014

  2. Gill says:

    I’m jealous, you know that, right? Slugs got most of my meagre crop last year, not to mention cats. It will probably be better cost wise next year, as the one off costs are done with.
    So far, I’ve got lots of baby leaves, and I’ve planted kale; but I’m not organised enough, they all get planted at the same time and have to take their chances!

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